08/23/2006 12:00AM

Wilkes quickly making the grade

Horse and rider take to the the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga on Wednesday at 6:20 a.m. for a schooling session at the starting gate.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Ian Wilkes will be the first to admit he never envisioned the rapid success he has had since striking out on his own in January after spending the previous 13 years working as an exercise rider and assistant to trainer Carl Nafzger.

Wilkes saddled his first winner in the United States, Ominous, on Jan. 18 at Gulfstream Park. His record of 23 victories from 139 starters in 2006 includes Court Folly here earlier this month in the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes. Wilkes will shoot for his first Grade 1 victory when Court Folly returns Saturday in the King's Bishop Stakes.

"To be honest, if you told me on January 1 that I'd be in this position so fast, I wouldn't have believed it," Wilkes said. "I've been very fortunate the way things have fallen into place thus far. Carl has been just a tremendous help, and he's still around and very involved with the stable."

Wilkes first worked for Nafzger in the late 1980's and was an integral part of the operation when Unbridled captured the 1990 Kentucky Derby. Wilkes briefly returned to his native Australia to train horses shortly thereafter before reuniting with Nafzger in 1993.

Wilkes has 32 horses in training, the majority of them back in Kentucky and five stabled at Saratoga, including Court Folly. His small stable has already accounted for four victories here this summer, with only one of his nine starters having finished worse than third.

"Winning the Kentucky Derby as an exercise rider with Unbridled was great, but I'd only been in this country a short while back then and didn't fully understand the full magnitude of being associated with a Derby winner at that time," said Wilkes. "Winning my first stakes as a trainer in a Grade 2 race at Saratoga, as I did with Court Folly, was a tremendous thrill and is something I'll never forget. And if we could ever come back and win a Grade 1 with him Saturday in the King's Bishop, it would be unbelievable."

Court Folly rallied from far back to beat the odds-on favorite, Songster, in the Amsterdam, and Wilkes is looking for a similar pace setup and performance from Court Folly in the King's Bishop. A son of Royal Academy whose best previous effort was a third-place finish in Gulfstream's Grade 2 Swale, Court Folly looked sharp on Wednesday working four furlongs in 48.53 seconds with Wilkes's wife, Tracey, aboard.

Showing Up has easy breeze

Showing Up breezed an easy four furlongs in 50.62 seconds over the Oklahoma turf course on Wednesday, his first work since winning Arlington Park's Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes.

"Just a maintenance breeze, that's all," said trainer Barclay Tagg.

Tagg said he was considering the $500,000 Man o' War at Belmont on Sept. 9 or the $300,000 Sky Classic at Woodbine on Sept. 23 for Showing Up's next start.

"Both races are at a mile and three-eighths, which is ideal," said Tagg. "I'd prefer the Man o' War, since its worth nearly twice as much, it's a Grade 1, and it's right next to our barn at Belmont. And it still gives him a month from the last one."

Take D' Tour pointed for Ruffian

Trainer David Fawkes resisted the temptation to run Grade 1 winner Take D' Tour in Friday's Personal Ensign Stakes and instead will await Belmont's Ruffian Handicap on Sept. 10.

"The deciding factor was the two turns," said Fawkes. "We weren't ducking anybody. I just thought we had to better options coming up with the Ruffian and Beldame the following month."

Fawkes said he would work Take D' Tour here Monday before shipping her on to Belmont later in the week.

Summerly not being rushed

Summerly is another filly who will pass the Personal Ensign to point to the Ruffian at Belmont. Summerly, last year's Kentucky Oaks winner, returned from a 54-week layoff to win the Ashado Stakes here on Aug. 4.

"It's a little quick back," trainer Scott Blasi said of the Personal Ensign. "The timing from the overnight stakes to the Ruffian is good. The goal with her is the Breeders' Cup [Distaff]; we're just taking the best possible path there."

Artie Schiller back on work tab

Artie Schiller breezed four furlongs in 51.92 seconds Wednesday morning over the Saratoga training track, his first breeze since finishing fourth of five in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap here on Aug. 6.

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens had given Artie Schiller almost 10 days off the track since the Fourstardave before he began training him again.

"It was good," Jerkens said of the work. "He was putting them down the right way, I thought. We put on new glue-on shoes, and he seems to be comfortable with them."

Jerkens isn't sure where Artie Schiller would make his next start.

Caller One a game second

Caller One, making his first start beyond 4 1/2 furlongs in more than four years, finished a game second, three-quarters of a length behind favorite Around the Cape, in Wednesday's third race. The 9-year-old Caller One, who has earned more than $3.2 million, had a slow start and was involved in an early pace duel with the 8-year-old Voodoo before succumbing to the rail-skimming winner in the final sixteenth of a mile of the six-furlong optional claiming dash.

"He's been training better now than he ever has, and I was really pleased with his effort even though he got beat," said trainer James Chapman.

* Angara, the Diana winner, worked four furlongs in 48.14 seconds over the Oklahoma turf course on Wednesday. She is being pointed to the Grade 1, $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park on Oct. 7.

- additional reporting by David Grening